As an exercise for one of my writing groups, we put together short stories which took a a character archetype, and had them do something completely out of character. For instance, I could have written about a fireman who liked to start fires, or a bartender that didn’t drink. When I sat down to write (the day before the assignment was due, of course), I didn’t have anything I could think of right away. I just let my fingers start typing, and what I came up with, I think, is not too bad.
Jerry Logan tapped his gold pen on his legal pad, and stared across the mahogany table at the cluster of suits facing him. There was power on that side of the table. Congressman Gregory alone controlled a half-dozen major committees. Congressman Lloyd was rumored to be setting up a Presidential Exploratory fund. Logan knew it was much more than a rumor. He had just dropped a five million dollar check into the hands of one of Lloyd’s assistant’s hands, out of sight of the men in this room, of course. Out of sight meant plausible deniability, and Logan was an expert at that.
“Congressman, I think you know where my client stands on this issue. Your constituents need jobs, and Acor Industries has plans to build in your district, but if this law is passed, there’s no way it can be done economically. They’ll have to re-examine their expansion plans, and look for more cost effective locales.” Logan said as he slowly leaned back in his chair. There it was. The standard line.
“My constituents would also like to not have their babies born with twelve toes.” Congressman Gregory responded. “I’m not saying that Acor has a poor environmental record, Mr. Logan, but the rate of leukemia in Congressman Lloyd’s district is seven times the rate upriver from the Acor plant.”
Logan bit the inside of his lip. He knew those stats. There wasn’t really a defense for them. Acor was willing to build in Congressman Gregory’s district because things had gotten… politically toxic in Congressman Lloyd’s district. The fact that Lloyd had shown up at this meeting meant that Logan wasn’t going to be able to play one side against the other.
“There have been issues in the past, but the management of that plant has been replaced, and Acor is taking voluntary action to remediate the problem.” Logan said.
“Ah, yes.” Lloyd said. “Voluntary action. To remediate. How exactly does one remediate a leukemia rate, Mr. Logan? Move everyone to another district? Or just wait until everyone is dead?”
“Congressman, my client is doing everything they can to make the situation right, for everyone.” Logan smiled his best reassuring smile, and turned slightly in his chair. This wasn’t going well.
“But mostly right for themselves, isn’t that right, Mr. Logan?” Gregory said with a glare.
“I can see you’re resistant to the idea of supporting our needs, Congressman. It used to be that jobs were important to you. But I guess that time has passed. Acor is going to build its new plant somewhere, Congressman. If not in your district, then somewhere more business friendly.”
Congressman Gregory nodded, stood and gently slid his chair back into the table.
“Son, you go ahead and try. If you find someone on either side of the aisle willing to talk to you, you let me know.” He turned and left the room.
Congressman Lloyd stayed seated, and waited for the door to close. He smiled.
“Republicans these days…” Congressman Lloyd said. “Who’d have thought they’d ever be concerned about the environment?” He shook his head.
“Things change, Congressman.”
“Yes, they do.” Logan agreed. “Now… about that plant expansion…” The Democratic Congressman smiled and pulled his chair in closer to the table. It was time to talk business.
September 11, 2011.